SNP abstains as parliament votes to ban fracking in Scotland

The Scottish Parliament has voted in favour of an outright ban on fracking north of the Border after a shock defeat for the SNP government earlier tonight.

Environmental campaigners campaign against fracking in South Queensferry in October last year. Picture: TSPL
Environmental campaigners campaign against fracking in South Queensferry in October last year. Picture: TSPL

Ministers insisted it won’t make any difference to the current moratorium on the controversial practice and they will continue with research into the method of underground gas extraction.

But the move will pile the pressure on energy minister Paul Wheelhouse to rule out fracking in the long-term when he eventually rules on the issue. Nationalist MSPs abstained on a motion calling for the practice to be ruled out in future, allowing the combined Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat ranks to out-vote the Tories.

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The vote does not oblige the government to impose the ban, but Labour immediately called for the Scottish Government to respect the decision reached by MSPs.

“The will of the Scottish Parliament has been made clear,” Labour environment spokeswoman Claudia Beamish said after the vote. “There should be an outright ban on fracking. The SNP may have abstained on the vote, but they cannot ignore the clear position of Scotland’s Parliament.”

Fracking – hydraulic fracturing – is a technique to extract shale gas from underground rocks. There have been concerns that it can produce earthquakes and affect water supplies.

Grangemouth owner Ineos has set out plans to frack in large swathes of central Scotland, but announced at the weekend it has moved its fracking operations to Yorkshire. It currently imports shale gas from the US to power its petrochemical plant at Grangemouth.

Public opinion in Scotland will play a key role in the decision on whether or not impose a ban on fracking, ministers said today.

The final decision will lie with newly appointed energy minister Mr Wheelhouse but there are already indications it could be as much as much as a year away.

Mr Wheelhouse said after the vote: “We are deeply sceptical about fracking and, through our moratorium, we have ensured that no fracking can take place in Scotland. Our abstention in this parliamentary vote respects and is in line with that moratorium.”